More Holocaust denial from the Iranian President

Watch how a Holocaust denier (in this case, the President of Iran) dances around the question “Did the Holocaust happen?” You can see the very same techniques when a denier like David Irving or Ernst Zundel is questioned about the Holocaust:

SPIEGEL: It concerned your remarks about the Holocaust. It was inevitable that the Iranian president’s denial of the systematic murder of the Jews by the Germans would trigger outrage.

Ahmadinejad: I don’t exactly understand the connection.

SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany — this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?

Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn’t surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.

Yep, according to President Ahmandinejad, it’s all the Jews’ fault. And he continues:

SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just “a myth?”

Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.

SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?

Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It would therefore be very good if an international and impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.

In other words, if you believe in the historicity of the Holocaust, you are “politically motivated.” If you are a denier, you are imprisoned and punished for your beliefs. Here’s one reason that I’m so opposed to laws criminalizing Holocaust denial. It gives fodder to demagogues like the President of Iran, letting them represent it as “dangerous” to power and thus possibly truthful. Of course, free speech considerations are the main reason why I find such anti-denial laws troubling, but this is one concrete bad consequence of such laws.

More interesting, however, is Ahmadinejad’s appeal to Germans and what is probably his real motivation for his Holocaust denial, the delegitimization of the State of Israel:

SPIEGEL: Well, we are conducting this historical debate with you for a very timely purpose. Are you questioning Israel’s right to exist?

Ahmadinejad: Look here, my views are quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from. I believe that the German people today are also prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?

Uh, Mr. President, perhaps it’s because the Nazi regime specifically targeted European Jews for expulsion and extermination–and almost succeeded, in the process developing a huge system of industrialized killing and death camps the likes of which the world had never seen before.

I recommend that everyone read the rest of the interview to see what kind of person we’re dealing with. It’s rather long, but it’s quite illuminating. Zealot or con man? You be the judge.The President of Iran essentially talks in circles but nonetheless cleverly plays to the right wing of German politics and its oft-stated belief that Germany shouldn’t have to apologize for its Nazi past anymore. Even so, he seems to have a bit of a tin ear. I can hardly see that his essential argument (namely that, if the Holocaust “happened” Jews should be given land in Europe, presumably in Germany, for their state rather than–in his view–“punishing” the Palestinians) would be likely to win over many of the German and European audience to whom he seems to be playing.

I will give the interviewer credit, though. He challenges Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial time and time again